Masked men attack muckraking Sri Lankan editor

New York, June 3, 2016 — Sri Lankan authorities should ensure a thorough investigation into an attack on the editor of the Sinhala-language Meepura newspaper Thursday and hold the perpetrators responsible, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Freddy Gamage was walking to his vehicle after covering a local government council meeting in the town of Negombo, 22 miles (35 kilometers) north of the capital Colombo, when two men wearing helmets with full face masks assaulted the editor, according to Meepura and a government statement condemning the attack. The men hit Gamage with a large wooden pole and pursued him back to the municipal building where the council meeting had taken place, the statement said. Gamage was taken to a nearby hospital to be treated for his head injury.

The motive for the attack was not immediately clear. Gamage, who is known for his reporting on crime and corruption, had decried alleged official corruption in a June 1 article for Meepura.

In a statement condemning the attack, government spokesman Dharshani Gunatilaka said the Sri Lankan government “would never again allow media suppression, which prevailed during the past, to reoccur.”

“The government’s vows not to let Sri Lanka return to the bad old days of rampant attacks on journalists must be followed by swift and effective justice,” said Bob Dietz, Asia Program coordinator at CPJ. “We call on the government to find those responsible for planning and executing the attack on Freddy Gamage and to punish them with the full force of the law.”

Sri Lanka last year ranked sixth on CPJ’s global Impunity Index, which spotlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go unpunished. Many of the killings came during the era of the preceding Rajapaksa government, but abated once the president was voted out of office.